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Friday, August 17, 2007

Naruto Video Games, New & Upcoming

Anime and manga licensed games are a staple of the Japanese video gaming diet. When a manga becomes a hit it usually spawns an anime which triggers the inevitable game launch. I know, I’ve imported titles from Gundam to Evangelion and of course Dragon Ball Z. When an anime title actually reached the US shores I was first in line to buy it, no matter how crappy (Final Bout anyone?). Over the past few years with the success of franchises such as Dragon Ball Z US gamers are now getting a fair share of anime based gaming titles. The king for the past 4-5 years has been Dragon Ball with its Budokai titles, but now there’s a new king in town. An obnoxious ninja in orange named Naruto.

Unlike the days of gamings past there is no lack of anime on any console, Naruto being the rule with titles out on coming to every console type from DS to Xbox 360. The console war is more expensive leaving many gamers with only one console. This makes the buying process easier, but what about those with more than one system, what ever shall you do with all the Naruto games coming? Read, that’s what. I love Naruto and gaming. I’ve played every current title for the next Hokage and been privy to play or see upcoming titles. Here’s what we’ve got on tap as Naruto and anime fans, good times.

First up are the Nintendo games published by D3 Publisher …

Out Now, Naruto: Ninja Council, Naruto: Ninja Council 2 on the GameBoy Advance, Naruto: Ninja Council 3 on DS and Naruto: Clash of Ninja, and Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 on GameCube. The GBA titles are basic side-scrolling fare with Ninja Council 3 expanding the roster and adding in touch-screen features. Ninja Council 3 is by far the best of the portable titles from D3 and well worth the purchase. The two GameCube titles are standard licensed fighting game fare, and worth the purchase if you don’t have a Wii.

Upcoming, Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution on Wii and Naruto: Path of the Ninja on DS. As I stated above, if you have a Wii wait for Revolution, don’t pick up the previous two Clash of Ninja (unless you already have them like me). You’ll still be treated to the same gaming goodness of the GameCube games but with an expanded roster and Wii-riffic features. Path of the Ninja is a compilation piecing together various Japanese handheld games into one package. Not sure what it will offer, but its role-playing fare with turn-based battles, jury still out.

Next, the reigning champ, Namco Bandai …

Out Now, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 and Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles on PS2. Both Ultimate Ninja titles are great mixing in animation worth of the anime but giving proper homage to the manga with tons of special moves, great character roster and just loads of fun in a fighting game format. Both titles are grade A in my book. Uzumaki Chronicles … well that’s another story. While not a horrible game all the fun of Ultimate Ninja is lost as you’re tasked with a more advernture-ish game, reliving the Naruto intro story. Still great fun for fans of the series, just not for anyone else.

Upcoming, Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 on PS2 and Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes on PSP. Since I just touched on its predecessor, Uzumaki Chronicles 2 takes all the good found in the original and begins to clean it up with the prerequisite expanded story and character roster. If you want a Naruto game on console that’s not just fighting this is the PS2 game for you. Ultimate Ninja Heroes I’ve not seen or played, but it’s an original PSP title (yeah, sure) that really resembles Ultimate Ninja. Gameplay changes about but you’re getting Ultimate Ninja on the go, which is a great thing. In much the way the Shin Budokai was a great port of Budokai Tenkaichi, Ultimate Ninja Heroes should mirror this for Ultimate Ninja.

Finally the new kid, Ubisoft …

Upcoming, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja on Xbox 360. By now you’ve been able to tell that various publishers have the Naruto license based on system, and it’s lucky Ubisoft who’s developed the Xbox 360 title Rise of a Ninja. Take the fighting concepts of Ultimate Ninja, mix in Uzumaki Chronicles and a dash of Path of a Ninja and you’ll start to get an idea of what Ubisoft is going to unleash. I’ve seen Rise of a Ninja in action and it looks spectacular with graphics to match the anime. The speed and stealth of a ninja is relayed through speed lines and effects ripped straight from the manga. The characters and would gamers interact with is also more robust than any title before it with next-gen everything … graphics, voice acting, gameplay … everything. Gamers will live the story of Naruto (again), interact in the most realistic Leaf Village and see Naruto’s story from yet another angle.

And the winner is … Namco Bandai for the existing titles. The PS2 still has a great user base, and Namco Bandai’s entries in the series still feel fresh as the US has not yet hit the Shippuuden (older Naruto) storyline. D3 brings some strong titles to the GameCube, but it’s GameCube, a dying breed. For the next round of games I’d have to give the early nod to Ubisoft. The game I’ve seen and played so far is hot. D3’s Wii entry is a solid game, but it’s an upgraded, expanded GameCube title while Namco Bandai is hitting with a sequel to a so-so gameand a portable port (where’s the PS3 love, lets do it!)

The future of Naruto fans on any console is very bright as there is a little something for each gamer from fighting to RPG to adventure. The system you own will determine your course here, but if you’ve got all the systems in the world check out Ultimate Ninja 2 first then wait for Rise of a Ninja. It’s a good time to be an anime fan playing games … now if we can get Dynasty Warriors Naruto or DBZ or Evangelion … yeah that would be sweet.

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